Bridgestone MotoGP Preview: Qatar, Losail
The 2014 MotoGP season is set to start this weekend amidst a huge buzz of excitement at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, as Bridgestone embarks on its sixth season as Official Tire Supplier to the world’s premier class of motorcycle road racing.
Twenty-three riders will take part in MotoGP for the 2014 season, which will span eighteen races across thirteen countries. Adding to the anticipation for the 2014 season opener, Bridgestone’s new tire classification system will make its debut in Qatar, with Green (Extra-soft), White (Soft), Black (Medium) and Red (Hard) colored markings to be utilized throughout the season, making it easier for fans to see which tire options the riders are using.
Three factors make the Losail circuit one of the most slippery on the MotoGP calendar; cool track temperatures, the potential for wind-blown sand on the track, and high humidity levels after the sun sets. The sand on track can also be quite abrasive, so Bridgestone’s tire allocation must ensure high levels of grip and warm-up performance, together with good durability.
The circuit features ten right-hand corners and just six left-handers, so asymmetric rear slicks with harder rubber on the right shoulders are provided here. Open-class riders at Qatar will be allocated the soft and medium compound asymmetric rear slicks, while Factory-class riders will be able to use the medium and hard asymmetric rears. Front slick tire options for the season opener are the soft and hard compounds to ensure the riders can manage the changeable grip and abrasion levels that occur at this circuit.
Hiroshi Yamada - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“The 2014 season is Bridgestone’s sixth campaign as Official Tire Supplier to MotoGP, and during this time Qatar has been the venue for the season opener. This weekend we will debut our new tire color marking system and I believe this will be a welcome change for fans, and will make the sport more attractive to the millions of people watching the action around the globe. After a busy pre-season, everyone at Bridgestone is excited to start the season, and I look forward to our range of 2014 specification tires getting their first taste of competitive action this weekend. We’ve made a large effort to push the boundaries of motorcycle tire development with our latest range of tires, and it is thanks to the efforts of the riders and teams over the past couple months of testing that we arrive at the first race of Qatar fully prepared for the season ahead.
“This weekend also sees the first round of the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup take place, and Bridgestone is proud to be supporting this series which gives young Asian riders a great opportunity to take their first steps towards a MotoGP ride. I’d like to extend my best wishes for a safe and successful campaign to all the riders competing in this year’s MotoGP and Asia Talent Cup championships.”
Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Division
“Qatar is the only night race on the calendar and as a result, track temperatures are usually quite low. These low temperatures would suggest using softer rubber compounds, but often there is abrasive sand on the track surface which makes durability a priority. This combination of low temperature and high abrasion makes it very tough for tires, especially on the right shoulders, as they have to be soft enough to provide grip in the low track temperature but hard enough to resist wear. The front tires also need sufficient stability for the heavy braking points at this circuit.
“Although the layout of the Losail circuit is only moderately severe on tires, the combination of low temperatures, on-track sand and the elevated humidity levels that can occur mean that overall, this is quite a challenging circuit for tyre development. This weekend will be the first time our 2014 MotoGP tires will be used in a race situation, and following a large development program over the past few months I am confident that our 2014 specification slicks are well suited to the performance demands of both the factory and open-class machines.”